City weighing lead removal options

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city is looking for the best way to get the lead out.

City Administrator/Utilities Manager Brian Yerges updated the City Council’s Public Works and Utilities Committee Tuesday on a recently-enacted state law dealing with lead pipe water service lines in municipalities.

The bill provides methods for municipalities to help property owners replace lead service lines, which can cause hazardous lead levels in drinking water.

Yerges noted that the city has been working to replace lead laterals as part of street projects in recent years, including on Western Avenue last year and on part of Reed Street when that is rebuilt this summer.

But the city replaces only the lead pipes from the water main under the street to each property line. Replacing lead pipes from the property line to each home or building is the responsibility of the property owner.

Yerges said city staff estimate that, of the more than 4,000 properties in the city, roughly 760 still have lead services lines from the main to the individual property. They have no accurate count of how many private lead service lines there are in the city.

That has precluded the city from taking part in a state Department of Natural Resources grant program designed to provide funding for replacing private lead lines.

That grant, which the village of Elkhart Lake used successfully to help replace all private lead services in the village, requires that the municipality provide an exact count of how many lines would be replaced with the grant funds.

Elkhart Lake officials were able to identify all affected lead lines in the village before successfully applying for the grant. They then used the funds to offset all but a small portion of the cost to property owners.

Yerges guessed that lead line replacement could cost from $4,000 to $6,000 for each property owner.

The DNR is calling on municipalities to set a goal of completely eliminating lead water pipes. Plymouth is already following a partial replacement plan by replacing the city portion of lead services, but a full replacement would require private property owners to replace their lines as well.

There are two options open to the city of Plymouth under the new state law, Yerges explained.

The city can offer loans to individual property owners for lead line replacement, with the loan repaid through an added assessment on the property tax bill over a period of time and at an interest rate set by the city.

The other would be to have the city’s water utility provide financial assistance, either through a grant, a loan or a combination of the two.

Using a grant program through the utilities would make it affordable for property owners, but Yerges identified a potential drawback.

“We would have to increase the water rate to come up with the money for a grant program,” Yerges explained. “That means customers without lead service would be subsidizing those who do have lead service.”

Yerges, in response to a question from Alderman Charles Hansen, emphasized that the new law does not mandate replacement but merely provides options for municipalities to help fund private line replacement.

“We want to have further discussion on a plan. City staff is going to want feedback from you,” Yerges told the committee members.

He emphasized that whatever option the city might choose to go with, it would not be in place in time for the Reed Street project planned for this summer.

“The effective date would probably be around Jan. 1, 2019,” if the city goes forward with either option, Yerges said.

Yerges said the city will be holding a public information meeting on the planned Reed Street project Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the Plymouth Utilities Operations Center on South Street.

Affected property owners have already been notified of the meeting, which is open to the general public as well, Yerges said.


Readers Comments

Yerges said city staff
Submitted by codekirk@wi.rr.com on Thu, 2018-02-15 08:04.
Yerges said city staff estimate that, of the more than 4,000 properties in the city, roughly 760 still have lead services lines from the main to the individual property. They have no accurate count of how many private lead service lines there are in the city. That has precluded the city from taking part in a state Department of Natural Resources grant program designed to provide funding for replacing private lead lines. SO WHY DON'T THEY GET AN ACCURATE COUNT OF THE PRIVATE LEAD SERVICE LINES SO THEY'RE ELIGIBLE FOR DNR GRANTS - IS IT BECAUSE IT'S LESS WORK TO JUST INCREASE THE RATES FOR ALL PROPERTY OWNERS TO FOOT THE BILL - I'M TOTALLY AGAINST ANY MORE INCREASES IN MY ALREADY HIGH UTILITY BILL TO COVER THE COST OF REPLACING "ROUGHLY" 760 PRIVATE LEAD SERVICE LINES - GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!
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